What Airbnb can teach nonprofits about storytelling

Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?

Have you seen the whimsical ad Airbnb runs to encourage people to become hosts?

I can see why people might be hesitant to allow strangers into their space. We are conditioned to look at people who are not like us as either scary or exotic. Since childhood, most of us have been warned of “stranger danger”.

The ad features a family of shaggy “monsters” enjoying their vacation. It starts where many of us are when it comes to inviting strangers to stay in our homes–it’s a little scary. But then we see a delightful series of scenes: enjoying a beautiful view with a cuppa tea, a family hike, collecting shells, taking selfies, cooking, playing games…

These are simple things we enjoy with our own families.

The shaggy monsters clean up after themselves, straighten a picture on the wall, and leave a thank you note. As they close the door, we finally see them as they really are–a human family, just like us.

Kevin Morby’s song, Beautiful Strangers, provides a relaxed musical backdrop. Not a word is spoken. It’s a beautifully orchestrated story with an important message:

Strangers aren’t that strange. We have more in common than not.

The stories we tell can build bridges

Unfortunately, in our attempts to elicit emotion (or donations), we often emphasize our differences rather than our shared humanity. When we do this, we miss opportunities to present a realistic and nuanced view of the problems we solve. At worst, we reinforce stereotypes and even exploit the people we are called to serve.

Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?

Help Donors Read Your Fundraising Materials

Help Donors Read Your Fundraising Materials

Make your fundraising materials more inviting and easier to read, so more people can join you in your life-changing mission. 

Your work is important! But that doesn’t mean people will read your emails, blog posts and newsletters. Sorry. It’s the truth.

Why don’t people read all that wonderful content your organization puts out? 

  • We’re tired
  • We don’t think there’s something of value for us
  • It’s boring (think story instead of reports)
  • It’s too long or too difficult

In this episode, I tackle the “too difficult” problem, with simple tips to make your content easy for donors to read.

According to the Literacy Project, about half of Americans read at an 8th-grade level or lower. If your writing is above an 8th grade reading level (some would say grade 6-7 max), you are not communicating with your audience as well as you could.

Even people who read at a higher level will appreciate a story that’s easy to read. Great writers embrace simplicity. Novels are generally written at a grade 5-7 level, while non-fiction titles come in at grade 8-9.

Your donors are giving you their time and attention. Don’t make them spend that time wading through complex prose. Your writing can be beautiful and easy to read.

Reading level is affected by:

  • length of sentences
  • word choice
  • grammar
  • content structure
  • active voice vs passive voice
  • wordiness
  • use of adverbs

Tools to help simplify your writing

Word will give you a reading level score and Flesch Reading Ease score. Find out how to locate these tools on the Microsoft support site. I like to use the Hemingway App. Hemingway highlights hard-to-read sentences and words that make your writing more difficult to read. This highlighting action lets you go straight to the problem areas, and shows you in real time how your changes affect readability.

After Hemingway, I like to read what I’ve written out loud. You can also get Word to read to you. When you’re listening, you can hear mistakes. You can hear when the writing gets monotonous or repetitive. Once you have that done, go through once more for spelling and punctuation. Now you’re on your way to communicating clearly with your audience!

Flamingo Marketing Mindset with Katie Hornor

Flamingo Marketing Mindset with Katie Hornor

My interview with Katie Hornor, author of Flamingo Marketing: How to Leverage Unique, Stay Relevant and Change the World.

title - Flamingo Marketing Mindset with Katie Hornor

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of any purchase you make at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Katie Hornor believes Christians can have strong faith, a good testimony in the marketplace, AND a successful business. She has helped thousands of faith-filled business owners through her books, courses, conferences, and coaching.

Her new book, Flamingo Marketing: How to Leverage Unique, Stay Relevant, and Change the World, is filled with tips for blending your faith authentically and gracefully into your business and marketing practices.

Your beliefs are central to everything you do, and it doesn’t change when you put on your marketing hat.

Katie Hornor

Some of the biggest hurdles we face as entrepreneurs are in our own minds, and she tackles those the myths that hold us back from being the unique gift to the world that God created us to be. In this interview, Katie and I discussed:

  • Why you need to leverage your uniqueness (be a flamingo!)
  • Why mindset is so important
  • Doing hard things
  • Time management
  • Leaving a legacy
  • Details on the book

You don’t want to miss Flamingo Marketing: How to Leverage Unique, Stay Relevant, and Change the World and all of Katie Hornor’s tips for blending your faith authentically and gracefully into your business and marketing practices. Click here to order your free book (you just pay shipping) by July 13 and get some fun bonuses too!

This is Katie’s third appearance on the podcast – catch our earlier conversations:


Three Takeaways for Communicators from TVE4

Three Takeaways for Communicators from TVE4

My three top takeaways from the Virtual Event on Virtual Events, and how you can serve your people by sharing the things you learn.

I try to attend something every year that’s outside of but adjacent to my field. It helps me see things with fresh eyes. New possibilities, solutions to old problems, and a break from the routine.  I recently attended The Virtual Event for Virtual Events and came away inspired and energized.

Here are my top three takeaways for any communicator (even if you’re not doing events):

  1. Write in sand, not cement. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Jump in. Get into the mix. Have those fun awkward conversations as you figure things out. Go on a journey with your people and figure it out together! 
  2. Macro clear, micro easy. Get absolutely clear on what problem you solve for the people you serve. How do you make a difference for them? Once you’re clear on that, the other things fall into place.
  3. Show what’s possible. Everything you do shows the people you serve what is possible, so you can’t afford to play small. 

My challenge to you:
Take something you learned through an event, conference, sermon, or personal experience and share that with your with your audience.